Previous SectionIndexHome Page

25 Mar 2003 : Column 192—continued

Mr. Burnett: I have already said that we welcome the concession on speciality, and we also welcome the passage of time amendment tabled by the Government.

New clause 9 proposes important safeguards that we support. The Bill contains many offences that are not offences in the United Kingdom. We have not discussed swindling: if I bought a car from the Minister for £1,000 knowing that I could sell it to the hon. Member for Surrey Heath (Mr. Hawkins) for £2,000 and then did so, would I be swindling the Minister? Perhaps I would, but that is the basis on which business is done throughout this country. That might seem to be a facile example, but it goes to the core of the entire definition. These offences are nebulous and uncertain. We believe that there should be safeguards, so we support the new clause.

Mr. Cameron: As I said in my intervention on the Minister, I support new clause 9 because it is very close to what the Home Affairs Committee recommended as a backstop power for the Home Secretary. One of the objections made to us was that it may be contrary to the European arrest warrant and therefore out of order. As a good European, will the hon. Gentleman reflect on that possibility and give his view?

2.45 pm

Mr. Burnett: In Committee, the Minister cursed his misfortune in having drawn the two most Eurosceptical Liberal Democrat Members—[Interruption.] I had better make that figure three, as my hon. Friend the Member for Somerton and Frome (Mr. Heath) is here, although he did not serve on the Committee. I believe in a Europe of nation states—a partnership—and I do not want to see foisted on our judicial system matters that are nebulous, uncertain and unfair to our own people or to people abroad.

I am delighted that we have the support of Conservative Members on new clause 19. The second head of injustice and oppression is not new—it is taken directly from section 11(3)(b) of the Extradition Act 1989 and appeared in all earlier extradition legislation. The Bill has adopted the cause of injustice and oppression arising out of the passage of time, which I welcome, and has rejected the

test in section 11(3)(c) of the 1989 Act. I refer to the case of Saifi v. the governor of Brixton prison, which demonstrated that in the absence of a discretion for the

25 Mar 2003 : Column 193

Secretary of State to refuse extradition—that is, to act as a long stop to prevent injustice in exceptional cases—grave injustice may occur, which is not avoided by the application of the Human Rights Act 1998. In another case—the Murat Callis case, which was a Turkish case—the court discharged the accused on the ground that the accusations were not made in good faith in the interests of justice, but were made as a means of blackmail. While the principle of mutual recognition must be recognised in respect of category 1 countries that are party to the European Union, it does not fall to be recognised in respect of category 2 countries. The Minister said that he supports the underlying aims of the new clause. He does not, of course, believe that there should be injustice or oppression. As I said, however, it is no good the Minister falling back on human rights protections, because those are not available.

I want to say a few words about the change in the threshold from 12 months to three years proposed in amendment No. 5. The European arrest warrant removes the dual criminality requirement for 32 offences where those are punishable in the issuing state by a custodial sentence or detention order for a maximum period of at least three years. Clause 62(3)(c) reduces that to 12 months. The Government have provided no justification for the inroad into the protection offered at EU level. We should maintain the threshold at three years, which would reduce the risk of warrants being issued other than for the most serious offences in respect of which it has been decided that dual criminality is not required.

On amendment No. 91, a person's extradition to a category 2 territory is barred if it appears that because the accusation against him is not made in good faith in the interests of justice it would, having regard to all the circumstances, be unjust or oppressive to return him. That is an important principle, and the House should consider it so.

Mr. Andrew Rosindell (Romford): I rise to support the amendments tabled by my right hon. and hon. Friends, but also to defend the liberties of my constituents, as all hon. Members must do. I am concerned about the Bill, and I want particularly to address the European arrest warrant.

Although I would be the last person to want criminals from other countries to remain in the United Kingdom, and would prefer them to be punished in their native lands, I am concerned that the Government are not responding through the Bill to a genuine problem but are pandering to the wishes of Europe—not an uncommon occurrence with this Government, I am sad to say. Nowhere is that more apparent than in the Bill's provisions relating to the European arrest warrant. They would allow for British citizens to be extradited to other European Union nations for crimes that are not recognised in the United Kingdom, and with only limited UK legal hearings. It is particularly worrying that certain crimes in other European countries—especially those relating to so-called xenophobia and racism, and to computer-related crime—are exceptionally difficult to define and pinpoint accurately.

Surely it is unthinkable that any British Government should lay British citizens open to arrest for breaking laws that are not clearly definable. Were this Bill to be passed, an Englishman—or, of course, a Scotsman or a

25 Mar 2003 : Column 194

Welshman—who had perhaps done nothing wrong, or done anything that any right-thinking person in this country would condemn him for, or even anything that could be considered a criminal offence, could not feel secure in his own country.

Mr. Bob Ainsworth: Does the hon. Gentleman believe that, when an Englishman is, for example, in Germany, he should obey German law or English law while he is there?

Mr. Rosindell: Of course I believe that any person in any country should obey the laws of that country. I believe most strongly of all, however, that no British citizen should be subjected to the laws of other countries while they are in this country. That is completely wrong.

I agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for West Dorset (Mr. Letwin), who, alongside the directors of the Democracy Movement and Liberty, presented a petition on this issue to Downing street in November. The Bill will achieve an increase in the bureaucracy involved in extradition, at the cost of proper checks. What it needs to do is to tackle the real criminals who are a serious danger to the British national interest and to catch and deal with terrorists while protecting the innocent from European pettiness.

The European arrest warrant represents an assault on civil liberties in the United Kingdom that will be potentially devastating for British people who fall victim unintentionally to committing ambiguous crimes abroad. It will open the floodgates for British citizens to suffer in foreign prisons and under foreign judicial systems that do not share our own standards and values. I urge hon. Members to reject it.

Mr. Cameron: It is with great pleasure that I follow my hon. Friend the Member for Romford (Mr. Rosindell), who has made a powerful case about the dangers of removing the protection of dual criminality. I rise to speak specifically in support of new clause 9, which would put into law the recommendation of the Home Affairs Committee—I am pleased to see its Chairman in his place—to give a backstop power to the Home Secretary in cases in which extradition was being sought for something that was not a crime in this country.

The Minister asked, when I intervened on him, how the Home Secretary could be asked to designate a request as being "proper." That is the word in the new clause. I did not draft it, and I have to say that I prefer the Select Committee's carefully drafted recommendation about the backstop power. I will try to defend the proposal, however, and I want to make two points to the Minister. First, the Home Secretary has a role in extradition right now. He has to decide in many cases whether someone should be extradited, and whether it is proper to do so. All that we are saying is that, under the European arrest warrant, if a person were accused of something that was not a crime in this country, the Home Secretary should have a backstop power to say whether it was proper or not. Secondly, we are in new territory here. Never before have we given up the dual criminality protection, so why not give a backstop power to the Home Secretary?

The backstop power proposed in new clause 9 is important because I believe that we are making a great mistake in getting rid of the protection of dual

25 Mar 2003 : Column 195

criminality. I shall give a simple example, so that we all know where we stand. Let us say that one of our constituents goes off to Spain, then returns to the United Kingdom and is accused of committing an offence. Under the Bill, so long as the arrest warrant had been properly filled out, that person would be returned to Spain. At no time would it be asked whether the offence that he was alleged to have committed was a crime in this country.

I did not have the pleasure of serving on the Standing Committee for this Bill, but I know that the proponents of the European arrest warrant say that we must try to give them a good example of a case that would be affected in the way that I have described. Because we have the protection of dual criminality, I have to admit that it is difficult to point to a good case. Perhaps I can ask the Minister what he thinks of the point.

Other hon. Members have identified the problem of the very vague 32 categories, one of which is "racism and xenophobia". Not a lot of people know this—as Michael Caine might say—but in Finland, under the category of racism and xenophobia, warmongering is an offence. I shall share with the House what someone would have to do in Finland to be accused of warmongering. The Home Affairs Committee report states:

Unless I have got it wrong, anyone who, for example, supports military action in the Gulf against Iraq and who travels to Finland and makes the case that the Finns—who, after all, may soon be part of a common European security and defence policy—should join the coalition, would be committing an offence. Suddenly, that could be something for which someone could be extradited. I would not recommend that either the Foreign Secretary or the Prime Minister should rush to visit Finland if they are going to talk about what is going on in the Gulf. I see the Minister laughing, and I admit that it is quite funny. I did not know that that was Finnish law until recently.

Next Section

IndexHome Page